Untimely Movie Review: Lethal Weapon

LethalWeaponThe next stop in my meandering, years-long journey through the Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection is Lethal Weapon, a film that walks a thin line between wildly entertaining (if absurd) action movie and borderline-self-parody buddy-cop trope-fest.  Man, that was a lot of hyphens.

Hindsight blurs that line, as retrospective eyes make elements that were still fresh in 1987 seem like hopeless clichés.  As with any historical work or figure, I judge it in the context of the times in which it existed.  As such, Lethal Weapon holds up better than one might reasonably expect.

Mel Gibson’s suicidal, manic, disheveled, chain-smoking-and-junk-food-eating Riggs has undeniable comic chemistry with Danny Glover’s by-the-book, old-school Murtaugh.  We’re in Gibson’s “still clearly Australian” period, here.  This is also one of those movie scenarios where Gibson is playing younger than his actual age, and Glover is playing “too-old-for-this-shit” (in reality, they’re only 10 years apart).  See also Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Untimely Movie Review: The Color Purple

TheColorPurpleThe Color Purple has the distinction of being the most-nominated film not to win an Oscar.  The 1985 adaptation of the Alice Walker novel earned an impressive 11 nominations, but failed to win a single Academy Award, tying the record held by mostly-forgotten 1977 ballet drama The Turning Point.

Watching The Color Purple for the first time, it was easy for me to see why it earned such critical acclaim.  It tackled topics that would have filled most Academy voters’ bingo cards: rape, incest, pervasive abuse, more rape, forbidden sexuality, a hard-but-brief detour into racism, and female empowerment.

Yet, the film suffers from the same structural challenges that plague many other movies based on books, whether Gone with the Wind or Doctor Zhivago.  Namely, there is simultaneously too much and too little: we get a story in the form of snapshots, jumping from era to era at an almost-breakneck pace, but without some of the detail that surely fleshed-out the novel (which, unsurprisingly, I haven’t read).

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Untimely Movie Review: Amadeus

AmadeusThere are two vital pieces of insight I’ve learned about Amadeus in the years since I first saw it.

The first was Milos Forman’s observation that the film had not two brilliant stars, but three: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, and the music.

In a way, this is a bit of a cheat, as the music in question had existed for hundreds of years before the play or movie ever existed.  The “standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants” concerns can be swept aside in light of the scope and presentation of that music by Forman—both in terms of the actual staging of the large, operatic and orchestral scenes, as well as the depiction of the creative process itself.

The second bit of insight came from Hulce’s revelation that he based his spectacular performance as Mozart on observations of John McEnroe.  McEnroe had become the greatest tennis player in the world by the time of the filming of Amadeus, and, by the time of its release, arguably the greatest tennis player the world had ever seen.

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Let’s All Make Fun of Tom’s Brackets (2021 Edition)

Although my March Madness expertise remains as low as it was in 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, I am at least reinvigorated following the absence of a tournament last year.  It won’t be quite the same as it would be in a normal season, but at least we have some games to watch.

Still, I can’t quite get over the late-season swoon by my beloved beliked(?) Richmond Spiders.  This turned out to be the most disappointing season of my lifetime, as several brushes with COVID-19 derailed most of the momentum that the senior-laden team had coming off of a strong 24-7 campaign.  I can only hope that they somehow win the NIT Tournament—a tournament I didn’t realize was happening until 48 hours before tipoff! 

Three wins to go as of this writing.  Go Spiders!

As for the Big Dance, I based everything on the idea that Gonzaga is clearly the best team in the country (they’re undefeated and have won all but one game by double-digits), but that nobody can go undefeated in today’s game.  Therefore, Baylor (or, more likely, someone I didn’t pick) will knock off the Zags before they complete the task.  If that powerhouse Kentucky team of a few years ago couldn’t do it, it seems like the odds are against it, even if Gonzaga is the clear favorite, if that makes sense.

Look, I’m seconds away from getting into an explanation of probability and “The Monty Hall Problem,” and nobody wants that.  Let’s end it here.  Laugh away:


NCAA Bracket 2021


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The WandaVision Series Finale

And, so, the first (and, presumably, only) season of WandaVision came to a conclusion with Episode 9, “The Series Finale.”  Before I get into the spoiler-y bits, let me recap the key finale expectations I had after last week’s episode.  They were as follows:

1. A segue into Multiverse of Madness, possibly with a Dr. Strange cameo (or at least a reference).
2. A definitive answer about why Quicksilver looks like that.
3. A definitive answer as to Vision’s fate.
4. The destruction of the Hex and the restoration of Westview.
5. A non-definitive answer as to Wanda’s good / bad alignment, possibly including her killing Hayward.
6. Agatha, a natural tweener, winds up on the side of “good” by the end of the episode in an effort to contain Wanda.
7. REED RICHARDS (or, in a swerve, Victor Von Doom)
8. A fully-powered Monica / Spectrum.
9. An hour-long episode, or close to it.

How’d we do?  Well, if you’ve watched the episode already, you know.

But, for those who didn’t and don’t . . .

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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No Multiverse Required

Over the last month, WandaVision seemingly opened the door to a much larger multiverse, but still left several crucial issues unresolved.

Episode 8, “Previously On,” gave us a few answers, and seemingly ruled out some of the more wild-eyed possibilities.

Well, maybe.  It will be difficult to separate red herrings from genuine truths right up until the end-credits scene of next week’s final episode.  For now, we do have some unambiguous clarity about what’s been happening in Westview.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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Dead is Dead – Or Is It?

Over the past three weeks, WandaVision has gone from “show I watch every week when I get a chance” to “a must-watch show the day it comes out” to “show I get up early on Friday to watch first thing.”  The only remaining rung on this maniacal ladder is “show I stay up until 3:00 AM Eastern to see the moment it’s available.”

While we’re not there yet, Episode 7 (“Breaking the Fourth Wall”) did a lot to set the stage for the final two episodes.

There were several curious aspects to this episode, but we also got some major hints as to what’s going on (and what’s to come).  In no particular order [*SPOILERS AHEAD*]:

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The Truman Show Meets Field of Dreams

I guess this is a WandaVision blog now!

Last time around, I made the following observation (among others):

Likewise, there are perhaps three explanations for Vision.  One, because he’s a synthetic being, albeit a sentient one, the “rule” about resurrection didn’t apply to him the same way it applied to her Pietro (or even to a dog), or the “rule” is purely one of self-restraint for Wanda.

Two, the rule does apply to Vision, but Wanda has somehow found a way to circumvent that rule, albeit at a cost.  Her defiance of the natural order and the associated strain are damaging reality and are what creates the blending of other universes into her own (which is how Evan Peters got there).

Three, the Vision we’re seeing on WandaVision is a different Vision.  The original MCU Vision is dead.  Wanda has his disassembled parts stashed away somewhere, and she pulled a non-dead Vision to her pocket reality the same way she pulled Evan Peters’ Quicksilver there, whether consciously or not.  Vision’s mind has essentially been wiped, pre-Westview, so it’s impossible to say if this could be the case yet.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

“Westview is charming as HELL,” huh, Quicksilver?

WandaVision is a weird enough show that I don’t think anything can be absolutely ruled out yet.  For example, why doesn’t Vision know who the Avengers are?  Has his mind simply been wiped, or is this a “different” Vision who comes from a reality where the Avengers don’t exist?  Even with that scenario still (barely) on the table, though, I think the sixth episode of the series makes the second possibility the current leader in the clubhouse.

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Ode to Government Efficiency

Allow me to regale you with a tale of government efficiency and wayward contracting.

I own several acres of land in King William County, Virginia.  It’s a few acres of woods that my grandfather gave me when I was a child.  There is nothing at all remarkable about the land.

I received a new reassessment of my land’s value some months ago.  Despite not having any structures on this land (or even a road that leads to it), the company the county employed to reassess the land determined that said plot was wildly undervalued.

So undervalued, in fact, that they increased the tax assessment by 133 percent.

I should pause here to note that I have never had an issue with King William County, and all of my dealings with them have been courteous and ended in a satisfactory manner.  I have always enjoyed dealing with their staff in the rare instances when I’ve had occasion to do so.

With that said, this massive change in assessed value presented a potential problem.  In the past, I saw the incremental increases as good news—greater property value has an obvious upside.  However, an increase of this magnitude would simply stick me with a huge hike in property taxes, and, at the same time, I would never be able to get such a price if I actually decided to sell the land.

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A Gateway to Endless Possibilities

Prior to the fifth episode of WandaVision, I was already enjoying the show quite a bit.  Probably more than most fans.  Some of the criticism I had seen online was from folks who either didn’t like the slow burn or didn’t enjoy (or were too young to “get”) the satirical waltz through the history of American sitcoms.

Neither issue bothered me.  I love a slow burn.  Hell, LOST is on my Mount Rushmore of TV dramas.  And, as someone who grew up at the dawn of “Nick at Nite” and perpetual syndicated reruns, I get the joke-within-a-joke about television’s longstanding tropes.

That all changed with the fifth entry in the series, appropriately titled “On a Very Special Episode . . . ”

More accurately, it changed with the final minute of that episode.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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